Watch Rav Perez’s Rosh Hashanah message below:
The following is an excerpt from Rav Doron Perez’s book entitled “Leading the Way”, collected writings on some of life’s most important matters.
“A Jew is judged on Rosh Hashana in two separate ways – how s/he has lived as an individual, and how s/he has contributed to the broader community.”
Rosh Hashana is the only chag that is observed for two days both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Originally it was a one-day festival, as mentioned explicitly in the Chumash. However, since the Second Temple period, our Sages extended it into a two-day chag. Being the only chag celebrated on Rosh Chodesh, many difficulties arose as to the process of sanctifying the new month, which was then reliant on sighting the new moon by witnesses. To overcome these technical difficulties, Rosh Hashana became a two-day yom tov throughout the Jewish world, being known as a “Yoma Arichta” – one long day.
Over and above the halachic technicalities which led to the two-day transition, I was deeply moved by an explanation based on the Zohar as to why Rosh Hashana ought to be two separate days.
While studying in Yeshivat Beit El many years ago, we were joined one Elul by a Chassidic Rebbe of the Court of Spinka. He mentioned that the Zohar, the famous Book of Kabbalah, states in Parsha Pinchas that the two days of Rosh Hashana are based on two verses in the
Biblical Book of Iyov (Job). In Job (1;6 and later in 2;1) the pessukim state: “And there was a day when the Sons of G-d came to present themselves before Hashem.” While the literal meaning of the verse is referring to angels, the Zohar says this dual verse is referring to the
Day of Judgment, where the Jewish people [who are referred to as the children of G-d in Devarim (14;1)] present themselves before Him.
The Spinka Rebbe went on to explain a beautiful interpretation as to the need for two separate Days of Judgment, which has stuck with me until today. He explained that every Jew lives concurrently on two planes, both as an individual and as a member of our community – the Jewish people.
This dual role has remarkably far-reaching ramifications. It means that a Jew is judged on Rosh Hashana in two separate ways – how s/he has lived as an individual, and how s/he has contributed to the Jewish people and broader community. It is for this reason that there are two days of Rosh Hashana, each with its own distinct spiritual focus and
judgment. It means that a person may be judged in one way as an individual, but fare very differently with regard to his/her judgment as part of the Jewish people. It strongly implies that a person’s individual destiny is inextricably linked with the destiny of his/her community – Klal Yisrael.
There is no way of escaping it. The principle of “Kol Yisrael Arayvim ze ba ze” that all Jews are responsible for each other, is clearly expressed in the dual judgment of Rosh Hashana. A person must not focus on personal spiritual growth alone, as important as this is, but
always see how he or she can contribute to the destiny of our people. Perhaps this is the reason why the two-day Rosh Hashana observance began close to the dawn of the exile of the Jewish people from their Holy City and their Land. At this time, the sense of Jewish peoplehood was being eroded as Jews would find themselves scattered to all corners of the globe. Judaism could very easily become individually focused, since we had been stripped of our national homeland and the collective spiritual focus of the Beit Hamikdash. Jews could become a collection of individuals, forgetting about the enormous responsibility we have to each other. This could threaten the very existence of the Jewish
people. As we began our exile experience, we needed two days of Rosh Hashana to remind us not only to focus on ourselves as individuals, but to contribute to building the unshakeable bonds of brotherhood – Klal Yisrael.
May every single one of us aspire to live as complete Jews… After all, we face a dual judgment on Rosh Hashana both as an individual and a community member and contributor. If we live as complete Jews, both individually and communally, perhaps we will no longer need two separate days which only began close to the dawn of our lengthy exile. We will perhaps be able to return to the original Biblical imperative of a one-day Rosh Hashana: one day which incorporates both individual and communal togetherness, with the one people serving the One G-d in the One Land.